Learning & Self-development
Volunteers discussed the process of volunteering and its implications for learning. Carers who also volunteered were often motivated by the ongoing learning opportunities “because it stimulates my brain, you know, and gets me thinking and doing things” (Carer, Cumbria). Both carers and volunteers expressed an interest and buy-in to the learning process. Many linked it with past experiences of dementia and the motivation to learn more about it now. Volunteering was a way of learning about dementia while also offering something in return. The majority of volunteers and carers supported training or further training in regards to dementia. Self-development and learning was a strong motivation for many volunteers on both an individual and organisational level.
The theme of self-development was linked to ideas around learning, developing skills and experience. For many of the volunteers the motivation behind this was linked to career or educational development. However, career motivated aims were still linked to the ideas of altruism and ‘making a difference’. The finding here suggests that the volunteering activity is more effective if it aligns with career aims and objectives and personal values. This was often linked to the perception that volunteering in dementia in particular can make a greater difference.
The motivation to learn was often influenced by the experiences – both personal and professional - that the volunteer already had. The level of learning and self-development was contingent on what level the volunteer already brought to the volunteering experience. For example, professional skills such as nursing, occupational therapy, firefighter, GP, teacher gave many of the volunteers we spoke to a base and set of professional values they brought to volunteering. Similarly, those with experience of dementia in the family or as a carer brought their experiences and skills to volunteering. Retirement featured as a strong motivation in this regard and volunteering in dementia was a chance to learn and develop in older age.
I also think your ability to make a difference or give or something is greater. So I’ve decided that it’s the people and the whole cause of dementia, it’s going to be the corner I’m going to fight. (Volunteer, Cumbria)
Latterly I guess I feel that I’ve learnt a lot and now I feel like I could still continue to learn but I think because of this new opportunity there’s more potential to learn more. I don’t know about contribute more because I think it would be valued equally from each organisation but for myself, so I suppose it’s self-development is really my major motivation (Volunteer, Cumbria)
So all the time you sort of balance it, but what you’re using is all the skills that you learnt when you were in your previous life, which is good. It allows you to expand. So in doing that you deal with all ranges of dementia and whatever that is thrown up, and you get twice as much back as you put in in all that time. (Male volunteer, Stirlingshire)